Today is International Overdose Awareness day. As of August 18th there’s been 433 fatal overdoses in our province of British Columbia alone. If we go by those statistics, as of today, August 31st, another 24 overdoses have now taken place and about 257 fatal overdoses will occur by the end of this year.

Insite, the first sanctioned safe injection site in North America, recently saw 14 overdoses in one day. Luckily none of these were fatal. That’s because they happened at a safe injection site with a health care professional at hand. Meanwhile, many people are dying alone in a Tim Horton’s bathroom, hidden from view with no help available in what is to be their last moments alive.

Anyone can overdose

It’s not just the stereotyped heroin users that are dying from overdoses either. Too often now it’s the student, the professional, the soccer mom and construction worker dad. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Opiates in particular.

Yes, some are more susceptible than others but many find themselves in that situation through prescriptions from their family doctor. Canada hands out more opiate medications per person than any other nation on the planet. Yes, even more than the US.

Too little, too late

More and more people are becoming aware of the nature of addiction and we are slowly coming around as a society but it is, unfortunately, too slow and not enough. How many people will die of drug overdoses before we really adopt programs that work?

What we are doing at the moment is not enough. Our present opioid crisis was brought about by the over prescribing of opiates and once the horse bolted from the barn an effort was made to curb the misuse of drugs such as OxyContin. Unfortunately, this paved the way for counterfeit pills made with Fentanyl and a dramatic spike in overdose deaths in our province and Canada-wide.

Knee jerk prohibitionist thinking has gotten us into this mess and more of the same will not get us out. What we need is a more compassionate attitude around problematic drug use.

I believe we need safe injection/drop in sites all over Canada and in each municipality. Many of our most drug dependent users are dealing with issues on a much much deeper level let alone having to survive in a world where their mechanism of coping is dominated by criminals and the only safe place to get well is in a crack shack, drug den or bathroom for fear of arrest or hiding in shame.

Criminalizing drug use has to stop. It’s an antiquated policy that extensively exacerbates the problem.

Someone’s child

Every one of those people who will die of overdose by the end of the year is someone’s son or daughter. They didn’t want to end their life that way — alone and from a drug overdose. What are we doing a society to address this?

Yes, we’re now making Naloxone available without prescription and that’s a good start but until we really start changing our attitudes as a society and start dealing with our prejudice and stigmas, we’ve still got a long way to go. And we just don’t have the time.

Today VFD will be called out roughly 30 times for overdoses in our city, none of those will be happening at a safe injection site. Therefore, until we stop with the NIMBY (Not in my back yard) attitude, I don’t think we’re doing anywhere near enough. As I said, they’re Canada’s sons and daughters, and we’re failing them miserably.